Four crew members arrested in South Australia’s biggest drug case

Australian authorities searched the bulk carrier in port and found evidence of a landing at sea (file photo)

Posted on March 31, 2022 at 4:10 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

Australian authorities report that they have arrested four crew members of a bulk carrier in connection with the largest illicit drug shipment ever confiscated in South Australia. They believe the smuggling operation was part of a larger organized criminal network attempting to distribute cocaine across Australia.

The multi-jurisdictional operation, involving the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Border Force, South Australian Police, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the Home Office, targeted the bulk carrier after receiving information about a possible drug shipment to Australia. The operation resulted in the recovery of 416 kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of over 166 million Australian dollars (125 million US dollars).

“The investigation was launched in mid-March after an assessment of intelligence which suggested a commercial bulk carrier, the Kypros Braverywas to be used for illicit drug trafficking in Australia,” AFP Deputy Commissioner Peter Harvey told a press briefing.

Crews from the task force boarded the Cyprus-registered bulk carrier owned by Alpha Bulkers as the vessel was moored in Port Adelaide on March 17. According to AFP, during the search they failed to find the narcotics, but did find evidence that led them to believe the ship had been involved in spilling a significant amount of drugs at sea. Police suspected the drugs had been dumped overboard at a pre-determined location in the “deep waters off the Yorke Peninsula”, west of Adelaide.

They began a thorough search of the Australian coast using sea, land and air patrols. Supporting their belief there had been a jettison at sea, members of the Australian Volunteer Coastguard reported they had rescued a small boat near Kangaroo Island in the south of the peninsula which had run out of fuel at the time of the alleged release.

“After working for four days, ABF officers found approximately 400 kg of cocaine a substantial distance from shore and towed the drugs to shore,” the ABF’s acting chief superintendent said. ABF, Alex Kelsall. Reports did not say whether the narcotics were left in a raft or boat or how they floated offshore.

Four Filipino crew members working on board the bulk carrier were arrested by police. They were due to appear in court in Adelaide on April 1. They are charged with “importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug”, and if convicted, the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. The investigation is continuing and AFP reports that further arrests are expected.

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